Classic Chords #12 – Message in a Bottle

The Police were a post-punk, new wave band, but the power pop trio all had jazz backgrounds. It’s not surprise then, that they used motifs from that world in their pop songs. ‘Message in a Bottle’ from the band’s second album, 1979’s Regatta de Blanc, could have just been a standard pop tune if it had followed a relatively conventional four-chord progression C#-minor, A-major, B-major, F#minor and then breaking out into an A-D-E.

Classic-Chords-Message

However, the Sumner/Summers/Copeland combination opted to add the minor-9th note of the scales and arpeggiate the progression across a driving three-note guitar motif ahead of a rocking bassline and the cymbalic skuffling of Copeland’s hi-hats. A similar approach, four chords arpeggiated but with a more steadier, more staid and laid back rhythm and pulse was also used on ‘Every Breath You Take’.

Now, I grew up on the Northeast coast of England, although I spent most of the first year of my life on the outskirts of Newcastle in a town called Wallsend, where the aforementioned Gordon ‘Sting’ Sumner would one day be a teacher by day and a jazzman by night before he went on the beat. So, it might be my imagination or some kind of musical synaesthesia but those minor-9ths, the suspended seconds of those chords, give them an atmospheric, ambient but altogether marine quality…or maybe it’s just the song title and the subject matter.

You can hear my cover version of Message in a Bottle here.

More Classic Guitar Chords here.

Meanwhile, nice feature on Summer’s playing during The Police in Guitar Player magazine. They cover MiaB and several others including Every Breath You Take in which Summers sort of recycles those arpeggiated add2/9 chords but with a twist, exercise 7b in that column shows the chords he used but there’s staccato in there so you don’t have to fret the whole chord at once. In fact in Summers’ own videos where he reveals the tricks of his trade, you can see he doesn’t fret the complete chord all at once.

More Classic Guitar Chords here.